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BJP, AAP or a third front — what next for Hardik Patel?

Most people, including some of his close associates, say that Hardik is set to join the BJP. Future political possibilities that Hardik may choose include him joining the BJP or the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or launching a third front with the likes of Naresh Patel.

Written by Parimal A Dabhi | Gandhinagar |
Updated: May 19, 2022 12:29:49 pm
Hardik Patel in Ahmedabad. (Express Photo/File)

After the resignation of Patidar youth leader Hardik Patel from the Congress party, speculations are rife about future course of action for the firebrand leader who catapulted to Gujarat politics while spearheading the Patidar quota agitation in 2015.

Most people, including some of his close associates, say that Hardik is set to join the BJP. Future political possibilities that Hardik may choose include him joining the BJP or the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or launching a third front with the likes of Naresh Patel.

One of the general secretaries of Gujarat Congress and Hardik’s close associate during the Patidar quota agitation, Manoj Panara, said, “Hardik had recently made calls to all the conveners of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) while asking them to join the BJP with him. But I do not think that any significant leader or worker of PAAS is going to join the BJP with him, forget about any sitting MLA.”

“I think that he has quit the Congress, feeling insecure about (possible) entry of Naresh Patel in the party which I think is misplaced… It is good that he has left despite the party giving him everything. Now, the Congress can do proper preparations for the polls,” Panara added.

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Panara claimed that Hardik has been tempted by the promise of withdrawal of criminal cases against him by the BJP.

One of Hardik’s close aides, too, said that the former is all set to join BJP. The aide said, “There are many Patidar leaders who have gone there and were reduced to nothing. Hardik may meet similar fate. After joining the BJP, he can be a hero only if he manages to get all the criminal cases registered during the Patidar agitation withdrawn and get permanent jobs for the family of 14 Patidars killed during the agitation.”

Possibility of Hardik joining the BJP has been questioned in a cryptic tweet by party leader and former close aide of the former, Varun Patel, who joined BJP ahead of 2017 assembly elections.

“Considering the way party workers have struggled against the man (Hardik), it does not seem to me that BJP workers will accept him. The discussion of him joining the BJP looks completely baseless… A BJP worker is silent, but not weak,” said Patel.

Another close aide of Hardik during the agitation and present leader of Nationalist Congress Party in Gujarat, Reshma Patel, says, “I would advise Hardik against joining the BJP. I had been there (in BJP) and know that they will only use him for their purpose. The demands of the Patidar community are not fulfilled. Joining the BJP may mean premature death of his political career.”

Another possibility being talked about is that of Hardik joining the AAP. An AAP leader from Gujarat said on the condition of anonymity, “There are speculations of him possibly joining the AAP. But I do not see much chances of that. The reasons (withdrawal of cases and money power) for which Hardik seemed to have left Congress are not going to be fulfilled in the AAP.”

A keen political observer of Gujarat said, “Exit of Hardik from Congress is possibly a good riddance for the party. Patidars have not been aligning with the Congress as much as the party expected for long despite huge efforts… Congress strategy seems to have changed by focusing on its core vote bank of OBCs, SCs and STs in addition to minorities in some pockets. Hardik’s exit may indirectly help Congress to make a silent political statement that they are a party of OBCs, SCs and STs, which is over 70% of the state’s population.”

Another thin possibility doing the rounds is that of Hardik aligning with Patidar leader Naresh Patel and a veteran leader to form a third front and then entering an alliance with the AAP during the assembly elections.

However, a close aide of Hardik ruled out such a possibility and said, “Hardly six months are left for elections. In such a short period, it is impossible to start a third front and fight elections… Hardik will (most likely) go to BJP.”

A BJP source said, “He is likely to join the BJP. The party wants to break the record of 149 seats at any cost and for that it is ready to take every possible step… It wants to get a psychological edge among the public over Congress by removing one of its top leaders. So the party may not mind taking him in.”

Talking about Hardik’s resignation from the Congress, a BJP leader said, “I would call it a suicidal action. He was made the party’s working president at the age when he was not even qualified to contest elections… For Congress, it is a loss of one more top leader. But our party is not going to gain much if he joins us.”

The party leaders, however, seemed divided on the impact of Hardik on BJP’s electoral prosp-ects, if taken in. A senior leader said that Hardik is still a mass leader who can have a clout over 10-15 assembly constituencies.

BJP’s media convener Yagnesh Dave refused to comment.

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